Deni Elliott

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Deni Elliott is a modern day philosopher, who currently teaches at The University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. She started by getting her bachelors degree in Communication from the University of Maryland. She then received her Masters at Wayne State University for Philosophy, to later go on to get her doctorate from Harvard University in the Philosophy in Education.

As an ethicist, Deni Elliott described the difference between ethics and morality. She said “Ethics begins when elements of a moral system conflict.” Making it clear that ethics’ point is to strive to provide complete accounts of what we should do and also why we should do it. Elliott gave an example of being able to choose your neighbor, you ask two different applicants about their opinion on murder. One responds (Jones) that he will not kill someone because the fear he will be put in prison, while the other (Smith) responds with how much he values life. According to Elliott:

It takes little reflection for most people to decide that they prefer Smith to Jones as a neighbor. There is always a chance that Jones might come up with a way to murder a noisy neighbor without getting caught. Smith, on the other hand, appears to be motivated by an internal principle rather than fear of external consequences (plaisance, 2014, 20).

Elliott’s also focuses on the levels of moral development. Level one is Orientation to an individual survival, Level two is self-sacrifice, and level three is nonviolence. She uses a metaphor to explain the works for Gilligan and Kohlberg saying that there are a couple ways that humans can develop morality. One can use “a highway map” and the other could use “a secondary road map” but if you combine that they show a more compete understand of the “territory” as a whole.

Deni Elliott’s views on ethics can be useful and are useful in today’s world in many ways. She has focuses a good amount of her writing on journalism. She discusses the ethical standards. There are certain rule and guidelines that these professionals need to follow in order for their jobs to run smoothly. There is the code of ethics for this job and even though someone may have a different moral standing on a matter, the code of ethics is supposed to overrule. One example would be the Kevin Carter photo. He was a photojournalist who took this picture of a Sudanese child that was crouched down in the desert being stalked by a vulture. Ethically he was not supposed to save this child and take her out of South Africa, because that was not what he was there to do. Even if his morals were pointing to save this child, he could not, if that child was not in immediate danger then he really was not supposed to do anything about it. Deni Elliott’s morals and ethics show how Carter had a moral conflict. Most people would want to save that child in a third world country, in fact that was the big question was he won the Pulitzer Prize, which he did explain in the interview. Elliott’s difference between morality and ethics happen all the time in the communication field, that is one of the reasons the code is in place.


Elliot, D. (2015). Journalism ethics. Ethics, Science, Technology, and Engineering: A Global Resource. Ed. J. Britt Holbrook. Vol. 2. 2Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference p629-634.

Elliot, D. A collection of Deni Elliott’s work on ethics. Retrieved from

Image untitled. Deni Elliott. Retrieved 12 February 2015 from

Plaisance, P.L. (2014). Media and ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage Publications.

Wright, K. (2014). Should journalists be virtuous? Mainstream news, complex media organizations and the work of Nick Couldry. Journalism, 15(3). DOI: 10.1177/1464884913483078


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